While it may be easy to understand what skills and knowledge you have developed through formal internships or placements, some students find it more difficult to recognise the skills they have developed through part-time work. We often hear students say “I don’t have any real work experience – I only work in a bar/shop/restaurant.
Don’t dismiss any work you’ve undertaken as it can have more value to graduate employers than you think – and it can be an ideal opportunity for you to develop further.
Although at first glance working evenings in a restaurant might have little to do with a career in management consultancy for example, you will (provided you are good at your job!) still have been developing important employability skills. For example it may help you to demonstrate:
- good communication skills
- ability to work effectively under pressure
- experience of dealing with difficult people
- customer service skills
- effective team work
- time management
Part time work may also give you examples to talk about on application forms and in interviews. Typical questions employers ask include
- Discuss a time when you had to solve a problem at work
- Give an example when you had to deal with a difficult customer, and how you used your skills to resolve their issues
- How do you deal with competing demands on your time
With some thought, you are likely to be able to find examples from part time work to develop good answers to these types of competency questions.
You may also be able to demonstrate some of the important personal qualities that employers seek – for example self motivation, reliability, professionalism, confidence, flexibility and adaptability etc.
And there’s nothing to stop you taking the chance to make more of your part time work. If you work for a large retailer for example – is there the opportunity to speak to management about their role and find out more about how the business operates? This will help you increase your commercial awareness which is important to many employers. You may also have the chance to undertake training, and whether or not it will be useful to future employers, it shows your motivation to improve and learn – something that is vital to graduate employers.
So if you ever hear yourself saying “it’s only a bar job” stop and think about everything you’re learning and the opportunities it could open for you.
Find out more about employability, skills development and visit the Employability Tutorial on the VLE to learn a lot more about the skills employers are looking for, and how you can develop them during your time at York.
Mandy Simmons, Careers Information Officer, Careers